What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?
Name three things that you wish you had brought and three you wish you had left at home.
What I wish I had brought with me:
~ My sense of humor. It pays to be light-hearted about things when you move into a new culture. Life doesn't end because things are different.
~ Tampons. That word in the local language means cotton balls. Had to send for an emergency shipment. Sorry guys -- it's not pleasant to talk about, but needs to be mentioned.
~ My favorite shampoo, conditioner and soap. There is variety there, but not the upscale brands some of us become used to.
What I wish I had left at home:
~ My furniture! All but the leather chair and ottoman. Finding furnished accomodations or purchasing local furniture would have been easier that waiting for my household goods to arrive by sea. Also, there are some incredible artists that work wonders with wood and you can furnish a mansion with pieces that will be passed down to familiy for centuries. Reclaimed Philippine hardwood makes for fine fine furniture.
My "typhoon jacket." I bought a huge rain slicker that I never wore. Even during the most severe of typhoon rains, it was too hot to put the slicker on.
~ Stereotypes -- I learned in quick order that Philippinos are the nicest, most caring, gentlest people in the world. They are not what movies, books and the news would have you believe. The relationships I built will last a lifetime. I feel that I am part of a large family in the Philippines.
Moving to Philippines
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What advice would you give someone preparing to move to your area about the actual move, choosing a neighborhood and finding a home?
I would tell a person considering a move to the Philippines and up to Clark to pay close attention during the look-see trip. If you are going to be assigned to this area, go out on Field's Avenue and experience the life there. It is not something that everyone can come to terms with. Seeing young girls clad in a string bikini with a number tag pinned to her bikini bottom can be a horrifying experience. I only entered one of those places two times during my 2.5 years in the Philippines. It pains me to know that people have to live like that to put rice on the table. It is their choice though, so I make no judgements. It is just something that makes you scratch your head and wonder what will become of the world in our lifetime?
Up at Clark it's not easy to find great food. Dining out is not easy. You have to search for a few good restaurants and you will end up haunting them until you leave. They do a pretty good job of Chinese food in the Philippines. Wonton soup is perfect there, but beware of the portion sizes.
Leisure activities are scant unless you like sweating like crazy on a golf course or hiking up to see Mt. Pinatubo. Of course, as I mentioned, there is quite a nightlife, but it is not for everyone. Anyone that was or is in the military has probably heard many stories that they may find inviting to this kind of lifestyle, but it's important to know that it exists.
I did not have my children with me, but the school situation up at Clark is not what it is in Manila. There are no expat schools. Children will have to be enrolled in the local school system or sent to a boarding school if American schooling is the preferred choice.
Be prepared to head into Manila to "get away" from time to time. There are now a couple of decent movie theaters up in the Clark area and a couple of malls as well, but Manila has it topped. One word of caution in the movies -- it is LOUD! Wherever you go, be prepared for the need to bring ear plugs when you go to the movies.
The Pampang Market is the place to go to find good produce and if you are so inclined, there is a wet market with meat, fish, poultry and pork. The newer local supermarkets are fairly well stocked now also.
What type of housing do you live in? Is this typical for most expats in your area?
The house was beautiful. It was in Angeles City in an upscale gated community,not upscale like Forbes Park in Manila, but guarded well and kept clean. The houses were all very different and some were the size of a mansion. Mine was large -- too large for a single woman. There were 4 bedrooms and I was often too nervous and jittery to walk into the other ones. The house was finished as I was moving in. It was large and had tile and hardwood floors throughout and I had airconditioners put in all of th rooms, but the loft. It was too hot up there, so I never furnished that room. Lizards became my shower-mates and the cockroaches scared the living daylights out of me. The balut man came around everyday chanting his pitch to sell the fertilized duck embryo that I successfully declined until a recent return visit. I lived there for a year before finding that I was not very comfortable living away from other expats. The expat community up in the Clark area is small and I was alone.
I moved to the Holiday Inn property and into a lovely golf villa. Had to do some good negotiating to get something that would be covered under my allowance, but it worked and was very comfortable. I had my own household help and a guard stationed outside 24x7. Estrada was about to be ousted and our security team felt it wise to have a guard. It turned out to be totally unnecessary, but it's better to be safe than sorry.
How did you choose your neighborhood and find your home or apartment?
I had Cendant relocation services and in the end, negotiated the contract myself. The landlord let me know that the relo rep was "on the take," so I took over.
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Are your housing costs higher or lower than they were in your home country? What is the average cost of housing there?
I found housing costs to be equal to the US. I think I was just an easy target. Big company, big allowance. I would be inclined to do the same had I been the landlord.